We LOVED Bareilly Ki Barfi – joint review with Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood

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Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood and I met at the Chicagoland Indian movie theater lasts night to catch the new Hindi film Bareilly Ki Barfi with Ayushmann Khurrana, Kriti Sanon and Rajkummar Rao.  It is SO GOOD!  Cannot recommend this film highly enough.  We absolutely loved it!

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Rajkummar Rao was the main reason I was interested in seeing this film, because he looked so funny in the trailer.  He is just delightful as a nebbish and then transforms into a tough asshole type as part of Ayushmann’s scheme.  He was a RIOT!

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This film has a fantastic script based on a novel.  It’s very clever how the plot unfolds, and while I laughed my ass off so much, and then it had such an emotional ending that I teared up.  Kriti had agency in the end, and that made it even better.

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Plus,  a woman director!!  Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari in her second feature film knocks it out of the park.

Check out Margaret’s Spoiler Free review here.

 

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Trailer Reactions – Solo, Bhoomi, Simran and Yuddham Sharanam

 

So many trailers came out last week!  Here are my reactions to four of the new films that I’m looking forward to seeing.

Any new movie from Dulquer Salmaan is one I’m looking foward to seeing.  After I posted this, someone commented that the film is an anthology and Dulquer will play several characters in the film.  This is just the first character, Rudhra.

 

Bhoomi shows Sanjay Dutt as the father of his daughter Bhoomi.  No subtitles but I get the basic gist that this is a revenge story.  I’m looking forward to seeing Sanjay play a father role.

 

Simran is the “maid” picture that was filmed in the States.  What I just learned is that the director Hansal Mehta is the same one who directed the fantastic Aligharh.  No subs, but it looks super quirky!

 

Finally subtitles, although they don’t show up in my reaction.  This is just a teaser for Chay Akkineini’s latest film, but it looks exciting.  Chay is definitely a great action film actor, and I’m enjoying following his career.

Movie Review – Rana and Kajal in Nene Raju Nene Mantri

 

After the horrible events in Charlottesville on Saturday, on the spur of the moment, I went to a packed late show of Nene Raju Nene Mantri (I am the King, I am the Minister.)  Whoo boy, it was not an escape from violent politics.

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I did like the film, but the ending, not just the very last moments, but the last ten minutes or so were very much wtf plot turns.  I left shell shocked and so did the audience.  I had to approach some women in the lobby to talk about their reaction to the ending.  I went by myself, and it was one of those kinds of films where you just have to talk to someone and say — what about that ending??  What did YOU think??  So please, if you’ve seen the film, please leave a comment and tell me what your takeaway was from that ending.

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It was just delightful to see the chemistry between Rana and Kajal.  This is a tour de force film for Rana Daggubati, but Kajal gets to show depths of acting that I have not seen in her other roles, especially in the melodramatic scenes.  Rana starts the film very sweet – he’s a money lender, but a soft hearted one who helps poor farmers, not the kind who bashes heads to demand payment.

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We don’t see the romance of Kajal and Rana, but do see a flashback of them as childhood sweethearts.  The film shows them as an established happily married couple.  Jogendra (Rana) is obsessed with keeping his Radha (Kajal) happy.  When a tragedy befalls them, then he is hell-bent on revenge.  He sees a path through politics to gain the power he needs to rain down justice.  But then the power corrupts him as he climbs up the political ladder.  Nothing and no one can stand in his way.  He says it is from the love of his wife, but she points out that that is not really true.

Frankly, Jogendra becomes a monster.  I felt like it was an abrupt change of his personality when the tragedy happens, but the descent thereafter was somewhat believable as the power corrupts him more and more.  The last 10 minutes though.  Yowza.  I’ll leave this spoiler free, but again, please comment if you saw it!!

It was a worthy film to see, and Rana gave a great performance showing a range that he wasn’t able to fully show in the Baahubali films.  The people in the packed theater were there to see him, and I’m looking forward to see where he goes next in his career.  While the director Teja, tried to give a critical look at a corrupt political system, where he took it left me rather stunned as he showed crowds sympathizing with the extremes of Jogendra’s acts.

What was also fun for me was now that I’ve seen more Telugu films that just about every character actor in the industry had at least a small part in the film.  There was a lot of “Hey, it’s that guy!” for me.

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Movie Review – Dhanush’s VIP 2 with Kajol!

 

A month or so ago, I saw the teaser for the Tamil film VIP 2 with Dhanush and I was super excited that he was doing a film with Kajol.  This is her first return to Tamil films in 20 years, and it was great to see a woman in the kind of antagonist role that usually goes to a man in Indian cinema, like Sonu Sood et al.

Commenters on Youtube urged me to see the first film VIP before going to the sequel, and I’m so glad I did.

 

VIP 2, unlike many Indian sequels, does indeed carry on the story of the unemployed graduate played by Dhanush.  Pretty much all the main characters and actors from the first film are back, Dhanush still living with his father and brother, and his now wife played by Amala Paul.  I was a little annoyed that the film kind of made Amala’s character into a harpy, but the marital discord has real underpinnings in Dhanush’s characters drinking (an issue in the first film as well), and Amala’s unhappiness at giving up her job to tru live up to Dhanush’s sainted mother’s housekeeping.  At least the film showed that she regained happiness when she goes back to work when the family is in financial crisis — the title says after all that he’s an unemployed graduate!

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Something happens near the end of the film which I won’t spoil that was the perfect way to bring Dhanush and Kajol’s characters together, and to make them resolve their differences.  It was very specific to the place of the film.  Dhanush himself wrote the script and dialogues, and his sister-in-law Soundarya (daughter of Rajnikanth) directed the film.

There are a couple of great dance numbers in the first half of the film, one very modern, and the other a more traditional style.

You can see and enjoy this film without seeing the first, but I’m glad I had seen VIP first because there are many references to the first film.

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Pardesi – Launching my new YouTube Channel!

 

I have just launched my new YouTube Channel Pardesi with Kartik of Bollyfools.  He first interviewed me right after that very first IMAX showing of Baahubali 2, and we struck up a frienship.  After I did Indian Cinema reviews for the Bollyfools Youtube channel for the last few months, we’ve decided to strike out on our own with this new Pardesi Channel.  We decided on Pardesi because I’m a foreigner reviewing Indian Cinema, and Kartik is an ex-pat in America.

I’ll be doing movie reviews for the most part in the four main Indian Cinema:  Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam.  I’m going to try trailer reactions and song reactions.  In fact I just did one for the first song Boom Boom from Mahesh Babu’s Spyder.  I had to take the Picture in Picture and audio out from the song because I got dinged right away.  I think I look ridiculous bobbing my head to silence but I have to know — why is there the word Hogwarts in a Spyder song??!!  It’s so strange!

 

I hope if you follow me here, you’ll subscribe to my new Youtube Channel Pardesi.

Dhanush is Excellent in VIP

In anticipation of Dhahush’s upcoming VIP 2, I took the first VIP movie with me on my recent vacation to watch.  Dhanush is such a good actor!   The title VIP is shortened from Velaiilla Pattadhari (English: Unemployed Graduate)

 

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I am really impressed with Dhanush.  I had previously only seen his Hindi film Raanjhanaa with Sonam Kapoor.  He was very good in that, but his role was kind of stalkerish.

11In VIP, Dhanush plays a young man who has a civil engineering degree, and has been looking for the right job for 4 long years.  His father is frustrated with him.  Dhanush’s younger brother has a good job.  He applies and applies and can’t catch a break.  He belongs to a Facebook group of other unemployed young graduates.  I had no idea this was such an issue in India.

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There’s an adorable romance with Amala Paul who moves in to the house next door.  She sees a lot to admire in this unemployed young man, and can’t help but be witness to all his struggles next door, and family drama.  They have great chemistry together.

Dhanush is fantastic in the couple of action scenes, and a really good dancer.  I also really loved this montage love song:

 

After a family tragedy, a coincidence leads to him getting a break, and getting a construction project.  The second half of the film deals with his struggles with an arrogant young rich developer.  He calls on his extended network of other unemployed graduates to help him out, and it was very moving.

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I’m really excited to see VIP 2 now.  I don’t know if it will be a continuation of the story, or another retelling of a similar unemployed graduate tale.  The key is that it has Kajol! Not sure if she will be his boss or nemesis or what.

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Ninnu Kori – Wonderful Chemistry between Nani and Niveda Thomas

I went to see this Telugu film, Ninnu Kori (Wanting You) with Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood, going in knowing nothing.  Margaret had heard it was a good Rom Com, so I took a chance.  It was a delightful Telugu Rom Com with great chemistry between the leads Nani and Niveda Thomas.  Go here to read Margaret’s review.

 

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It was driving me crazy where I had seen Nani before — and at the interval I asked Margaret, and she reminded me Nani was the the hero in Eega!

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The first half is fantastic and I loved the meet cute between Nani and Niveda.  Nani’s dancing is also terrific.  Character actor Murli Sharma who normally plays cops, is Niveda’s stern father, and it was great to see him in a comedy role like this.  The initial conflict in Niveda and Nani’s relationship is quite believable.

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The love triangle with Aadhi is where I started to have issues.  Maybe it’s just my American sensibilities, but the first half was SO great, that the resolution of the film was a let down.  I felt like the screen writers were forced to tell a more traditional story ending, and they didn’t sell it to me as Niveda’s HEA.

Still, I really enjoyed seeing Nani and Niveda on screen together, and I’ll definitely be seeking out more films from both of them.

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The Big Sick – My favorite Rom Com in years

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Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani appear in The Big Sick by Michael Showalter, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Nicole Rivelli.

I have been anticipating The Big Sick‘s theatrical release since it started a bidding war at Sundance in January.  There was a slow roll out of the film, first just NY and LA and then adding a few cities each weekend until finally it came to my Chicago Suburb.  It made it to 5th in the US box office last weekend.  I saw it on a Wednesday matinee and it was nearly sold out!  On a Wed at 1:30!  (Granted it was Senior discount day, but still!)

I was worried the film wouldn’t live up to my hightened expectations — the trailer is so amusing, but I shouldn’t have worried.  I loved it!

I wasn’t familiar with Kumail Nanjiani really, as I’ve only watched a few episodes of his HBO series Silicon Valley.  He just is so charming and sweet in this film.  He immigrated to the US from Pakistan when he was 18, and has a tight knit family.  His father requested that Anupam Kher play him in the film, and they finally found a cousin of Anupam’s to reach him in India.  When Anupam first called Kumail after he read the script, Kumail hung up on him because he thought it was a prank!

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Zenobia Shroff, who I think has a few Bollywood credits, plays Kumail’s mother in the film.  Kumail wants to pursue a career as a stand up comic, but his family just wants him to take the LSAT and agree to an arranged marriage.  His mother has girl after girl “just drop by” when Kumail is home for dinner with his family.

Kumail meets Emily at one of his stand up shows.  She yells “Whoo Hoo” when he asks if anyone in the crowd is from Pakistan.  Then he gently tells her she should never heckle even if it’s a positive thing.  “Even if I yell out that you’re great in bed?” They have so much chemistry in the film.  It’s adorable.

maxresdefault (27)When Emily finds the cigar box full of pictures of Pakistani women his mother has been trying to set him up with, they have a huge argument and break up.  Shortly afterwards Emily becomes seriously ill and is put into a medically induced coma in ICU.  Kumail has to notify her parents, and it’s very awkward when they are all in the waiting room together at the hospital.  Ray Romano and Holly Hunter play Emily’s parents, and they have a loving, but bickering relationship.  It felt very real to me.  Emily has told her parents about the breakup, so they don’t see any reason for Kumail to stay — but he has to.

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Kumail has kept his relationship with Emily a secret from his family, because a cousin who married a non-Muslim white woman has been completely cut out of the family.  He is torn by his love of Emily and his devotion to his family.

Even though I knew things would work out, I cried in this film.  I also laughed out loud, and laughed a lot.  It is so funny.  Ray Romano and Holly Hunter were given license to improvise some of their lines, and they are gems.  Judd Apatow is a producer on the film and helped Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon write the real life story of their rocky courtship into a workable script.

I heartily recommend you listen to Terry Gross’s interview with Kumail and Emily on Fresh Air.  It’s fascinating hearing the process they went through to make this film with Apatow, and also more background on their families and relationship.

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This film is about a real life conflict and a traumatic time in the lives of Kumail and Emily.  I won’t spoil how it all works out, but it was glorious to watch it unfold.  I highly, highly recommend that everyone see this film.  It lives up to the hype, believe me.  Just a delightful script, and great performances all around.

I’ve been reading about how we’re finally getting to see and hear Muslim-American stories.  There was Hassan Minhaj’s fantastic comedy special Homecoming King and of course Aziz Ansari’s Master of None series also on Netflix.  But this is the big time — a film on the big screen.  This film was made before we were in the midst of the Trump presidency, but seems even more topical now.

 

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M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story – Compelling first half, that falls apart in the second

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I was traveling overseas on vacation and the M.S. Dhoni movie starring Sushant Singh Rajput was one of the “international” choices on the plane movie entertainment system.  So, I took a chance on it.  I know nothing about cricket — only as much as you pick up watching Lagaan.  I knew nothing about Dhoni either — only had heard his name.

 

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The first half of the film with the story of Dhoni’s childhood and early days trying to work up to the big leagues I found very compelling.  The two romances in the film were also very well done.

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After I watched the movie, I read about how many months Sushant spent working with cricket coaches to perfect the signature Dhoni swing.  I can’t speak to how well he embodied Dhoni since I haven’t ever watched the real man play, but he did a good job acting the part.

The second half of the film just fell apart for me.  It was sixer after sixer in a highlight reel of games that didn’t mean anything to me.  I suppose they were important.  Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood shared with me that she saw this film in a theater crowded with Dhoni fans who anticipated every big moment, and even change of jersey colors.  I was watching it alone on a plane, so I didn’t have that to give me any sense of dramatic tension.

 

I shouldn’t have to be an expert in cricket or the man Dhoni to feel dramatic tension and be swept up in his story.  I’ve seen other films about sports I know nothing about that are some of my favorite films ever.  Asif Kapadia’s documentary about the Formula One racer Senna is incredible.  (Kapadia went on to win the Oscar for Amy.)  I was on the edge of my seat practically the whole movie.  I’m a fan of Michael Sheen so I watched The Damned United, about the short reign of a football coach for the Manchester United team.  The conflict between Sheen’s character and the team, the management, and especially his best friend and partner is an incredibly dramatic story.  Highly recommend both films, btw.

Dhoni participated in this film, doing several hours of interviews, and they used those real details to give the “untold” story.  But that meant that they glossed over some other real events to stay in Dhoni’s good graces.  He was a “consultant” or executive producer or something on the film.  There were little moments that just slid by, that you could have based the entire dramatic arc of the second half on — like his insistence as captain of the India team to force out a few older players who weren’t “fit” to start rebuilding the team toward the World Cup years in the future.  Just mentioned and then glossed over.  There were a few moments like that.  Instead we got more footage of sixer after sixer.  I actually almost dozed off watching it.

Anupam Kher is of course great as Dhoni’s father.  He’s always great.  The music montage numbers were good.  Those songs were in the charts for weeks.  And I did like the romances.

I guess I give it 2 and a half stars for the good first half.  If you’re a fan of cricket and Dhoni, this film may be for you.  If not, give it a miss.  It’s on Netflix streaming currently in the US.

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